Recently I stumbled on a Facebook status update from a friend, He was talking about unlearning the ideas that patriarchy taught us. Growing up in Nigeria, it was not unusual to see the most interesting situations and hear the most archaic ideas. He said:
We were told crying was for women, we were taught that the burden of sexual purity was on the woman, we were taught that a woman who stood up for herself would make a bad wife (how woman go open mouth when man dey talk? Abomination), we were taught that the power and respect a man commands is as a result of his wealth and once he ‘allows’ a woman to have more than him he has failed. It’s okay to cry if you’re hurting, you’re human. Even Jesus cried when he came down as a human being. We can’t keep holding morality, respect and success on different levels for men and women. If we as guys can change these ideals by correcting our mindset and teaching our friends and in some years, our children, we’d make massive impact on the behavioural patterns of the society. Everybody has a part to play
I was really impressed. Now before I continue, I’ll say ahead of time that I’m not trying to start an online war on what’s right or wrong. However, coming from Nigeria, it is a big problem. When I left home for school and I noticed how the people in this island were so different from my people at home. Things we held in high regard were just everyday occurrences here. For example, I was subconsciously taught that I had to grow up, be a good girl, not too ambitious or successful so as not to scare men away and above all, the man was always right. Even though my parents are learned, they had this same things taught to them by their parents, so everyday is a learning process for them and once or twice, the traits rear their ugly head.
This topic right here is one of the many things Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is known for. A lot of people, not just Nigerians, have a lot to unlearn. What I need you to realize is that it applies in many areas of life; school, work, family, friends, money etc. I don’t even know where to start from. In some areas, we need to unlearn EVERYTHING we know, we were taught and made to believe. To realize that there’s a world out there with so much more to offer than what we see with our eyes.
This definitely comes with a warning, as we tend to lose ourselves in the process of evolution which is not right. I’ll tell you something. I learnt on this island that you can eat more than one piece of meat at a public place and not be judged for it. By that I mean go to every stand on the buffet line and ask for one of everything they have without raising eyebrows. I’ve also learnt that it’s okay to laugh and engage in discussions with elders without being labelled rude and disrespectful.
I see good kids here everyday go to parties – the good ones, with their parents and even alone till 10pm. Even as an adult I still have an unspoken 6pm curfew. I do not regret the training I was given by my parents because i was needed in the environment I grew up in, but I wish I had more opportunities to interact with them without fear and I was given the opportunity to say my mind.
As for the gender roles and stereotypical ideology, I love order as much as the next person but I want to plead that we also try to see the world from different angles through different eyes. Tunnel vision never helped anyone. I was once told by a guy after we’d finished arguing that I was right during the argument but as a guy he couldn’t just concede. My reaction was
I was hurt. Really hurt because even though I stood my ground, It worried me that he had to do that to feel better. And why? Subconscious training. And all the while I thought he just didn’t understand my point of view. There are many things to be fixed, tribalism, notions that certain families are just pure evil, That school is the only way to success etc. The last example is even more dear to my heart because I see so many creative people locked up in shackles of “I don’t want to be a disgrace or disappointment to the family “.
Whilst some may be in very difficult situations where choices are limited to zero, as many as can break free from that prison that only exists in our minds, please do. There’s so much more to see and do. The only way to unlearn is to actively re-learn. Girls, don’t be afraid to live and guys, don’t be afraid to feel.